My wife and I have very different ways of handling our children (almost 3 and 5 years old). We agree about the rules we want to set, but we are complete opposite when it comes to implementing the rules.

For the last three to four years, I have been fighting to get my wife to implement the rules we agree upon and to be extra careful with implementing the rules myself. This has caused our relationship to be close to a breakdown and it is severely affecting the feelings I have towards my children. I look upon the time I spend with them more as work than as pleasure, because I have to spend so much time trying to get the children to enforce rules. The kinds of rules we are talking about are things like putting on clothes themselves, sitting at the table while eating, eating diversified food, staying in bed after they have been put to bed, not hitting, kicking, biting or throwing things at each other.

I consider my attempt to get my wife to enforce the rules in a similar way to mine as failed. And I believe it to be a high risk of our relationship breaking down if I continue to try this path. I don't believe that a broken relationship will improve the situation in any way, but only reduce our ability to solve the problems. Therefore, I am asking you whether I could just let go of most of the rules and still have children that turn out well. Do they need to sit at the table while eating? Can they fall asleep in front of the telly every night? Can they learn conflict resolution on their own?

They are both in kindergarten now, where they are functioning reasonably well, but they have both had periods where the kindergarten have had to dedicate one employee almost exclusively to the child for a few weeks. This happened with both around the age of 2,5.

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    I'd suggest couples/family therapy. There seems to be several issues at work here that need resolving.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 5:50
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    I agree with jeighjoans answer; it's also what I thought when reading the question. The issue you are facing is not really about your children but rather about how well your partner and you are cooperating and agreeing on your common parenting. Kudos to you for recognizing that this needs to be addressed! Your children are still young enough that you can fix anything that needs fixing, after you've sorted things out with your partner. Best of luck, and don't give up! (Though you might need to give in on one or two of your own principles.) Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 9:57
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    Being consistent as parents has helped a lot with our 3yo so far: It's clear what the rules are (that you have) and what consequences arise when they are broken. Don't be afraid that you have to behave identically, though, it's fine if one of you is a bit more relaxed and the other a bit more strict.
    – mthomas
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


Fix the problems between you and your wife and everything else will fall into place. First things first. There can be no positive structured environment for the kids without a positive, healthy and respectful relationship between Mama and Daddy.

and... listen, 5 & 2 years of age may be a little early for independent conflict resolution.

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    Agreed. There could be so many things going on here, that it may take professional authority. For starters, enforcing rules takes energy, and with a 2 & 5 year old, I'd imagine. But this needs to be dealt with as a couple, not by resorting to outside authorities for your support. As DA01 suggested, couples therapy may be a good first step.
    – deworde
    Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 15:28
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    Speaking of first things first, try reading, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families Together to help guide you throughout their growing in figuring things out between the two of you and for your kids. GREAT IDEAS AND GUIDeLINES that can be used in almost any household. Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 1:59

First of all, it takes children a long time and a lot of repetition to learn such things. That's why you rarely see three year-olds living on their own.

Second, children respond differently to different adults. It's very common for children to be much more obedient to their father than their mother. Your wife may very well be trying harder than you are to discipline the children.

Have some patience and try to help your wife instead of blaming her.

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